When Charlie was about 3 and 4 years-old he had very limited language.
It was mostly grunting and pulling my hand to the item he needed.
It was holding his ears a lot with his hands and dropping to the floor.
It was holding his ears with his shoulders crying.
It was whining.
It was a red face.
For years I would drive him home from school and want to try and "talk" about his day.
Any nugget he could share.
I yearned for it.
The school would send a daily note with either smiles or frowns of how he did.
He got mostly frowns unfortunately.
I visited him for lunch one day and saw how they asked him if he wanted strawberry milk or chocolate and he was able to point. I had a lightbulb moment, "I could ask him if he had strawberry or chocolate milk!" I was so excited.
So the next day he got in the car and I looked in the rearview mirror and asked him, "Did you have chocolate or strawberry milk?" He said nothing. I felt empowered though knowing it was one of those choices. Then I tried to figure out how he could answer my question. I made 2 pecs with the pics of both and then he could point. Once he pointed I started sounding out that word trying to get him to have any sound close to that. I did this over and over until he was saying the word better and better. I remember feeling so much better that we were able to have a "conversation" and then would always tell him our neighborhood developments name every time we drove by the entrance. Those were the days I would look in the mirror at my boy, even if he was looking up or didn't seem to attend to me at all.
Now jump 13-15 years later and I am still looking in the mirror but boy has it changed.
Just this last week he got in the car and said, "Mom how was your day? I had a great day. I was more social today than normal. They actually laughed at my presentation and thought it was funny and said I did a good job."
He was talking away (which is a huge jump from just one year ago even) while I tried not to tear up. I wanted to really hear him, but I couldn't help but look at him in the mirror and remember those harder days and so grateful for the progress he has made.
It wasn't just because of me either.
It was a team.
It was so many years of folks.
Speech Therapists. Occupational Therapists. Social Skills Lessons. Teachers. Paras. Behavior Analysts. Peers. Lunch Ladies. Summer Camp Counselors. It goes on and on.
It has been a village, truly.
It is still hard for him to talk with others. He has said, "Mom it is so hard. I don't know what to say, when to jump in." He is doing it though and the more he does it and the more we push him to do it through his fear the more comfortable and confident he will feel.
Looking back in the mirror, looking back from where your child was and focusing on the progress being made instead of the challenges motivates me to keep pushing them. I love that I can remember those times just as precious (if not more) than the times now he is telling me a few things about his day on his own.
Whatever way we can push our kids to talk and communicate in their way about their day, how they feel, and how we can help is awesome.
Never give up.
Keep pushing them.
Love them every step of the way through it.
Don't forget to look in the mirror too!